How to succeed at the Music Aptitude Tests (2019 state school entry)

It’s that time of year when we are just a few weeks away from the start of the Music Aptitude Test season. Many students want to know how to pass the MAT test. This is a selective test that secondary state schools use to select a number of students each year, often bypassing the catchment requirements, hence the popularity of it amongst Year 6 students. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to secure a space at your desired local secondary school and living within the catchment area is not always possible due to the steep increase in house prices near schools rated Outstanding by OFSTED.

Most schools operate a 2-part Music Scholarship system. Without passing the MAT, you will not be able to progress to the audition stage so it’s very important to put the time in to prepare thoroughly for the Music Aptitude Test so that you can have the chance to perform for the scholarship panel. This is often on a separate date but some schools will put the two sessions on the same day.

I have been preparing my own students for over 12 years for Music Aptitude Test and scholarship entry to state secondary schools. Through the grapevine, other students from UK schools found out that I have produced training test materials for my students and they enquired about purchasing these, and also about having individual or group MAT training sessions. This led to me offering the tests for sale and also inviting students from any area to attend my monthly Aptitude Test workshops. It gives me great pleasure to receive so much feedback from students that have successfully passed the MAT and many continue to succeed at the audition stage. I am available to prep students for both test and audition. Do make sure you engage your music tutor in the process too as they can follow the plan of action we come up with at the workshops to ensure you are ready for the tests that take place in Autumn 2018.

In addition to preparing many music students over the years, I’ll be thinking about whether to send my daughter to a school on a scholarship place if she’s keen to pursue music at secondary school and she now enters Year 5 and we start looking around local schools in South London. Two very popular schools, Haberdashers and Kingsdale offer music scholarships and I’ll be looking at a new school, Charter East Dulwich, to see if they have a scholarship admissions program.


Here are a few things to consider when preparing your child for the Music Aptitude Test.

  1. Have we left enough time to prepare for the test? Even though the schools say no musical knowledge is required, the tests are quite unusual and it’s worth trying these at least a few weeks in advance but ideally 3 months ahead of the test date. Trying out the tests a few days before the MAT often causes panic and is not best advised!
  2. What is the criteria for your chosen school? Each school has a slightly different MAT test and they often change it each year. As we, the teachers, are unable to sit these tests, we rely on the written guidelines and feedback from students that have sat the test to produce training test materials that will help familiarise you with the style of tests. These tests are not exactly the same and we tweak them to fit the feedback we receive from our students.
  3. What pieces will you perform? We don’t recommend performing pieces from the exam syllabus. Try and think outside the box and pick some pieces that will make a memorable performance. You want to stand out on audition day and you also need to make sure your pieces are known fluently and have been performed many times under pressure – either at home to an audience of friends and neighbours; at school assembly to a larger audience or in a competitive event. Everyone gets nervous so it’s important to have performed your audition pieces under pressure several times so that you know you can beat the nerves!

Which schools use the Music Aptitude Test? This list is not exhaustive and is subject to change so please check your prospectus for current information.

  • Abraham Darby Academy
  • Ashmole Academy
  • Brentwood Ursuline Convent High School
  • Bristol Cathedral Choir School
  • Bushey Meads School
  • Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School
  • Chancellor’s School
  • Chelsea Academy
  • Claremont His School Academy
  • Clement Danes
  • Cooper’s Company and Coburn School
  • Croxley Danes
  • Dame Alice Owen
  • Enfield Grammar
  • Haberdashers’ Aske’s / Prendergast Hilly Fields / Crayford Academy
  • Hertfordshire & Essex High School
  • Highgate School
  • Langley Grammar School
  • Leventhorpe / The Bishop’s Stortford High School / The
  • Mill Hill County High School
  • Old Swinford Hospital
  • Parmiter’s School
  • Queens’ School (Bushey)
  • Rickmansworth School
  • South West Herts School consortium
  • St Anne’s Catholic School, Southampton
  • St Clement Danes
  • St Mary’s & St John’s CE School
  • St Marylebone Church of England School
  • St Paul’s Way Trust School
  • The Hertfordshire & Essex High School and Science College
  • Uxbridge High School
  • Watford Grammar School for Boys
  • Watford Grammar School for Girls

If you have any questions about the MAT, have a look at our Facebook support group. We also have free videos to help you with the tricky bits of the test such as the Texture section:

Author: Head Teacher

Owner of the SE22 Piano School in East Dulwich. Founder and Director of the Dulwich Music Festival. Piano teacher based in East Dulwich since 2007.

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